The fountain pen is a stylish writing implement found on business desks or in personal journals. Unlike your standard ballpoint pen, it requires more finesse to use and refill, but it produces a polished look for signatures, formal correspondence, or sending elegant invitations. It’s also popular for use in journaling or art.
Searching for the smoothest writing fountain pen is a lifelong journey for some people. Chris Elfering, the founder of Lochby, a store that supplies journals and accessories specifically for fountain pens, says that the features most important to people shopping for fountain pens are the writing experience and materials. “For [the] writing experience, it's usually about how smooth the nib is and how heavy or balanced the pen is," he says. In regards to materials, he adds that certain items command a higher price—“for example, gold nibs over steel and arco celluloid bodies over acrylic.”
We researched the most popular fountain pens to buy, evaluating them based on materials, ease of use, quality, nib type, and value. Our favorite, the Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen, strikes a balance of performance and durability. It features a brass body with a medium steel nib and includes a converter for ink refills.
PILOT Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen
Medium nib made of stainless steel
Includes converter for ink refill
Has a squeeze converter instead of piston converter
Uses proprietary ink cartridges rather than standard international sizes
The Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen is a popular pick with a medium-point nib. It offers an elevated writing experience, thanks to its brass body that feels weighty without being heavy. It’s slim enough to fit in small hands but doesn’t feel undersized, unless you’re accustomed to a very wide-body fountain pen. This option is affordable and refillable, making it an excellent entry point for fountain pen beginners or a reliable option for everyday tasks by fountain pen fans. It includes a case but has a capped design, so you can take it in your bag or keep it in your desk drawer without fear of damage.
The medium nib included with the Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen is stainless steel. It has a reputation for laying down lines that are slightly thinner than other medium-sized nibs, but in the eyes of many, this is an advantage. It leads to crisp letters, whether you’re writing in cursive or print. It’s worth noting that the nib is technically not interchangeable and Pilot doesn’t sell the nibs separately, but many people have replaced it with a nib from another Pilot Metropolitan pen.
As a refillable fountain pen, you can elect to use the brand’s replacement ink cartridges or use the included converter to fill the reservoir with the ink of your choice. Take note that it’s a squeeze converter (also known as bladder refill), so if you’re familiar with the clear body of a piston converter that allows you to see the rising ink level as you refill, refilling this pen will be a slightly different experience.
Price at time of publish: $17-$27, depending on the retailer
Material: Stainless steel nib, brass barrel | Nib Size: Medium | Barrel Width: .52 inches
AmazonBasics Refillable Fountain Pen
Includes two replacement ink cartridges
Metal body with posting cap
Choose between fine or medium nib
Ink cartridges can be hard to load
Nib is not interchangeable
If you want an affordable fountain pen, it’s hard to beat the value of this option from AmazonBasics. It’s constructed of a brass body for a stable, weighty feel in your hand and offers the choice between a fine or medium nib, depending on your purpose and writing style. Take note that the fine nib lays down a heavier line than some writers expect.
Aside from the fact that this budget fountain pen costs less than $10, it’s also refillable. Out of the box, it’s ready to write with a loaded ink cartridge and also includes two more replacement ink cartridges. The one gripe that some users have is the fact that the ink cartridges can be tricky to properly seat in the body of the pen, so it’s not usually recommended as a starter pen for children.
Price at time of publish: $9.80
Material: Metal nib, brass barrel | Nib Size: Fine | Barrel Width: .62 inches
Best for Students
PILOT Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens
Pre-filled with ink
Variety of ink colors
Translucent body to see remaining ink levels
Tendency to lay down too much ink
A pre-filled fountain pen is a simple and convenient way to explore this type of writing instrument. Many students start with this type of disposable fountain pen, rather than starting with the challenge of learning to appropriately fill the pen with ink. One of the most popular options for students is the Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen.
Pilot refers to this option as the ‘everyday fountain pen,’ since it's affordable, easy to use, and convenient for a variety of tasks. The pen has a plastic body with a stainless steel nib that is practical and durable. It’s most often found in a variety pack with a range of ink colors, including standard options like black and blue, plus shades for creative uses, like pink, green, purple, and turquoise. The ink flow can be fast or heavy, depending on how much pressure is applied. It’s something that students may struggle with in the beginning and a point of criticism for some users of the pens. In general, however, most people find the Pilot Varsity pens to be an excellent introduction to writing with fountain pens.
Price at time of publish: $15.69
Material: Stainless nib, plastic barrel | Nib Size: Medium | Barrel Width: .3 inches
Best Fine Point
LAMY Safari Fountain Pen
Window to see ink level
Requires LAMY cartridges unless you purchase converter
A fine-point fountain pen offers precision and crisp, clear lines. For this purpose, we recommend the LAMY Safari Fountain Pen. Fountain pen enthusiasts find this option to be one of the smoothest writing fountain pens and point out its durability, reliability, and value—it costs less than $35.
This refillable fountain pen accepts LAMY ink cartridges or you can purchase a converter to fill it with the ink of your choosing. Ink flow never seems to be much of a problem with this fountain pen; it has a reputation for working well as soon as you pick it up for use, even after sitting in a desk drawer for an extended period of time. The included fine-tip nib is coated with steel for the sake of durability. It writes smoothly without skipping under most conditions and is equally suitable for work tasks or hobby penmanship. The nib is also interchangeable with other LAMY fountain pens.
The body of the LAMY Safari is ABS plastic. It has a cap and clip to secure the pen when not in use, although it should be noted that the wider body of this plastic fountain pen sometimes prevents it from fitting into the spine of a notebook or a pen holder compartment with as much ease as more ‘torpedo’-shaped fountain pens. In addition, the plastic body doesn’t offer the same aesthetic appeal or weight as a metal fountain pen. However, it’s more budget-friendly and never cold to the touch.
Price at time of publish: $24
Material: Black coated steel nib, plastic barrel | Nib Size: Fine | Barrel Width: .49 inches
Asvine Forest Fountain Pen with Extra Fine Nib
Textured aluminum body
Cap secures tightly to pen
Wide variety of colors available
No ink provided
Thin barrel may be harder to hold
The Asvine Forest Fountain Pen delivers the precise, thin lines of an extra fine fountain pen without feeling scratchy or skipping across the paper. The extra fine nib of this fountain pen is constructed of stainless steel that has undergone physical vapor deposition (PVD) for added durability. While using the pen, you’ll appreciate that it has a textured aluminum body for additional grip, although the somewhat thin diameter of the barrel can make it more challenging to grip for a longer session of writing. When not in use, the cap secures tightly over the nib to protect it from damage or leaking.
The pen doesn’t ship with any ink but it does include a converter, so you can fill it with ink from a bottle of your choice. You can also purchase refill ink cartridges, if you prefer that method of filling your fountain pen. It’s possible to customize this fountain pen with different size nibs or by choosing from a range of colors, including matte black, brass, stainless steel, pink, blue, and more.
Price at time of publish: $17
Material: Stainless nib, PVD coated black metal barrel | Nib Size: Extra fine | Barrel Width: .43 inches
Best Medium Point
Scriveiner Fountain Pen with 18K Gilded Nib
German-made 18K gold nib
Compatible with standard international size ink refills
Enamel finish prone to scratching
More expensive than other options
A fountain pen with a medium nib is a versatile choice for journaling, signatures, drawing, or any other task where you want to put personality to paper. The Scriveiner Fountain Pen is a popular choice, thanks to its enameled brass body and medium nib gilded with 18K gold.
While this fountain pen from Scriveiner is beautifully designed, the nib is a key feature to consider. The medium nib is made in Germany by Schmidt, who manufactures standard-size nibs compatible with some of the best-selling fountain pen brands like Kaweco, Lamy, Parker, and more. The nib on this pen is gilded with 18K gold and is remarkably smooth to write with, with very little to no feedback from the paper. This is especially important if you plan to use your fountain pen with a medium nib for extended writing sessions, where the action of the pen on the paper should be effortless.
The Scriveiner Fountain Pen is a more significant investment in your collection of writing tools—it retails for around $50, but it has the build quality and details to make the price tag worth it. In addition to the quality nib, this pen has a brass body enameled with black lacquer (several other colors are available, too). A snap-on cap protects the nib and can also be posted on the back of the pen while in use. The only occasional complaint is that the enameled body can sometimes scratch from posting the cap or other incidental wear. Still, most people don’t hesitate to recommend the Scriveiner as a gift-worthy fountain pen or a valuable addition to any fountain pen collection.
Price at time of publish: $48
Material: 18K gilded nib, brass barrel | Nib Size: Medium | Barrel Width: .47 inches
Best Wide Point
Wordsworth & Black Fountain Pen Set with 18K Gilded Broad Nib
18K gold-plated nib
Includes ink cartridges and converter
Writes smoothly with 0.55 millimeter lines
No barrel grip
Some reports of leaking
For a wider stroke, pair a fountain pen with a wide nib. We recommend the Wordsworth & Black Fountain Pen. This option pairs a refillable modern fountain pen with a broad nib gilded with 18K gold. The smooth metal barrel is contoured for the sake of ergonomics but lacks any texture for additional grip. It has a classy look that mimics the appearance of fine fountain pens costing several times as much as this option for less than $30.
The broad nib of this fountain pen lays down smooth lines of ink, measuring 0.55 millimeters according to the manufacturer. Whether you use it for business or hobby purposes, it has a balanced feel in the hand and a click-on cap that protects the nib when not in use. It includes an ink converter or you take advantage of the fact that replacement cartridges are included with the purchase of this broad nib fountain pen. While there are some instances where the nib leaked more ink than expected, most people are very satisfied with the performance of this pen.
Price at time of publish: $26.90
Material: 18K gold-plated nib, metal barrel | Nib Size: Broad | Barrel Width: Not listed
Best Under $30
Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen
Octagonal design prevents rolling off flat surfaces
Extra ink cartridge in barrel
Screw on cap
Limited ink supply
The Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen offers some unique features that make it an excellent choice for under $30. It features a plastic body with an octagonal shape, which keeps the pen lightweight but also means that it’s less likely to roll off flat surfaces, like a table or desk. It has a fine nib, made of alloy steel with a gold finish. The nib can be replaced with another Kaweco nib if it becomes damaged or you want to swap it out for another nib size or style (like a calligraphy nib).
This under $30 fountain pen has a compact size which means it fits well in a pocket. When closed, it measures about 4 inches long but posting the cap during use gives you 5 inches of length, which may be more comfortable for your grip style. The small size of this pen means that it also has a limited ink supply—it likely wouldn't make it through note-taking at a full-day seminar—but it does have a replacement ink cartridge that stores in the barrel of the pen. The screw-on cap is one downside if you’re accustomed to a fountain pen with a cap that quickly snaps on and off.
Price at time of publish: $24.43
Material: Alloy steel nib, plastic barrel | Nib Size: Fine | Barrel Width: .55 inches
Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen
Portable and airplane-safe
18K gold nib
Pricier than other options
Clip is lower on the barrel of the pen
Converter is challenging to use
Protecting the nib of a fountain pen is important since it’s essential for smooth writing action. While most fountain pens have a cap for protection, a retractable fountain pen—like this option from the Pilot Vanishing Point Collection—houses the nib inside the barrel of the pen when not in use. This makes the pen more portable and even airplane-safe.
The metal body of the pen is designed with a patented mechanism to retract the nib; it’s similar in form and function to a ballpoint pen. However, the fine 18K gold nib writes with a springiness that makes writing or drawing feel effortless and allows for a greater range of expression. This pen is pricey (it retails for over $150) but its quality of materials, delivery of ink, and unique retractable design make it worth the spend if you want a portable fountain pen.
While the Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen exceeds the expectations of most users, it’s not without its quirks. First, the included ink converter can be cumbersome to use and many have resorted to filling up spent cartridges with a syringe. Second, the clip for this pen is located on the end of the barrel closest to the nib. It results in slightly adjusting the grip position while using the pen. It’s not a dealbreaker for most users, but a surprising adjustment to the traditional design of a fountain pen.
Price at time of publish: $160-$187, based on color
Material: 18k gold nib, aluminum barrel | Point Size: Fine | Barrel Width: .54 inches
Best for Beginners
Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pen
Designed to teach proper nib orientation
Transparent body to see ink levels
Nib doesn’t dry out quickly
Uses proprietary cartridges and converter
No pen clip
The Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pen is often recommended for beginners but can be appreciated by anyone. This is a demonstrator fountain pen, meaning that it has a translucent body that allows you to see the filling system and monitor ink levels. Despite having a plastic body, most people find it to be well-balanced and well-made, with sufficient weight and a slightly tapered barrel for grip. There is no pen clip but the cap is faceted to prevent the pen from rolling off flat surfaces.
The most unique feature of the Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pen that will benefit beginners is the smiley face printed on the nib. The instructions included with the pen advise users to keep the smiley face in sight to ensure proper nib orientation. Even after the learning curve is over, the Pilot Kakuno continues to offer a smooth writing experience and user-friendly features, like a nib that doesn’t dry out quickly if you pause while using the pen.
Pilot pens use proprietary cartridges and converters, which is something to keep in mind for more experienced fountain pen users that have established ink preferences or prefer standard international cartridges. Beginners are less likely to be concerned with this feature. Of course, the converter allows you to use any bottled ink you like. Also, while this pen has a snap-on cap, it doesn’t include a pen clip for securing the pen inside of a pocket.
Price at time of publish: $10
Material: Steel nib, plastic barrel | Nib Size: Extra fine | Barrel Width: .59 inches
Montblanc Classique 145 Meisterstück Fountain Pen
Barrel and nib made of premium materials
Complimentary nib exchange within 6 weeks
Ink cartridges available in various colors
Warranty period is only 2 years
Montblanc is one of the most revered names for writing instruments and the Meisterstruck Classique Fountain Pen is made to impress. This luxury fountain pen is well worth the spend when you consider its premium build and materials—the barrel is crafted of resin with platinum-plated accents, and the nib is 14K gold with rhodium inlay. A serial number is etched into the platinum clip while the Montblanc emblem graces the cap. You can refill this pen with Montblanc’s signature ink, available in classic and expressive shades like Mystery Black, Royal Blue, Burgundy Red, Irish Green, Lavender Purple, Midnight Blue, and Oyster Gray.
A luxury fountain pen should deliver a supreme writing experience and Montblanc doesn’t leave this to chance. The company handcrafts nibs in its Hamburg, Germany facility. Every nib is tested by an expert to ensure that it lives up to the superior standards that make this one of the smoothest writing fountain pens money can buy. The 14K gold nib of the Meisterstruck delivers a soft, luxurious sensation as you write with the pen. If the medium nib doesn’t meet your expectations, the nib is interchangeable and Montblanc offers a complimentary replacement nib within 6 weeks of purchase. It’s hard to find any fault with this pen, except for its hefty price tag and the fact that the standard warranty period is limited to two years. This pen retails for over $400 but is worth the splurge as the ultimate writing instrument.
Price at time of publish: $463
If you’re looking for a well-designed fountain pen that writes smoothly and reliably, you can’t go wrong with the Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen. This popular fountain pen has a stainless steel nib for durability and a brass body in a variety of finishes. It only accepts Pilot-brand ink cartridges but does include a converter if you prefer to use bottled ink. If you're a student just learning to use a fountain pen, you may want to consider the Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen. It's a disposable option that comes pre-filled with a variety of colors that help eliminate the mess and learning curve of refilling a fountain pen.
What to Look for in a Fountain Pen
Fountain pens include a nib, which is classified by the type. The nib is a major differentiating factor, according to Chris. “Basically, it determines the thickness of the line. The nibs usually come in Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Bold, Double Bold. There are also specialty tips like italic or stub.”
If you want a fountain pen for precise writing tasks that emphasize readability, you may want to choose a fine nib. Keep in mind that some fine or extra fine nibs may have a higher tendency to feel scratchy, which is often described as ‘feedback’ in the fountain pen community. A medium nib is more likely to glide across the paper and can offer legibility, but expect a thicker, wider line overall. Nibs that are medium or bold (also referred to as broad) are usually chosen for artistic purposes or making large strokes.
Since nibs are usually interchangeable, it’s not necessary to choose a fountain pen solely because of the nib.
The material of the fountain pen barrel and its nib will have a big impact on the feel and functionality of the pen. In fact, Chris says that the nib “has the most impact over writing performance.” He explains that the finish will determine how smooth it writes, noting that “gold nibs are softer and bouncier compared to steel nibs.” A fountain pen with a gold nib is often considered one of the smoothest writing fountain pens, but it should be noted that a stainless steel nib is very long-lasting when compared to the softer metal of gold, which can bend or wear more easily. The Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen, our top overall choice, has a stainless steel nib that is widely known for being reliable in ink output and durability.
The barrel of a fountain pen is often made out of metal (usually brass) but may be constructed of plastic, wood, or other materials. The choice of barrel material comes down to aesthetics and ergonomics. A metal pen offers a weighty feel, but can become tiring to hold for extended writing sessions. A plastic pen is lighter and may be easier to grip for longer periods of time. Other options, like the Faber-Castell E-Motion Fountain Pen with a pear wood barrel, offer the opportunity to make a style statement with your writing instrument.
Size (barrel and nib-discuss various point sizes or interchangeability)
The size of a fountain pen’s barrel affects both grip and storage. Fountain pens can be slim and streamlined or more rounded. According to Chris, the coveted Montblanc Meisterstruck Classique 149 is considered a large fountain pen, but our choice for the best luxury fountain pen—the Meisterstruck Classique 145 is slightly smaller, and for some, a better fit and feel in the hand. The length of the pen (with and without its cap) also may make the pen more or less ergonomic for small or large hands.
People often choose to write with a fountain pen as a form of personal expression. So the color of the pen’s body can be a statement in itself. Classic colors like black, silver, and gold are popular, but so are brighter or bolder pens in hues of blue, green, red, pink, and more.
The color of the ink for a fountain pen is not to be overlooked, either. Black or blue ink are standard choices, but you can purchase ink cartridges or bottles of ink in a wide range of colors to suit any professional purpose or artistic objective you have in mind.
What ink is safe for fountain pens?
You must use a specific category of liquid inks designed for fountain pens. Chris cautions that dip pen or India inks shouldn't be used in fountain pens. “They dry up and turn into a glue and will ruin a fountain pen.”
Refillable fountain pens have an ink cartridge that must either be replaced or refilled. If your intention is to refill it with fountain pen ink from a bottle, you’ll need to use a converter. If you want to replace the cartridge, you’ll have to purchase compatible cartridges. Some fountain pens use standard international size cartridges, like the Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen, our pick for the best fountain pen under $30. Other brands of fountain pens, like Pilot, use proprietary ink cartridges and converters.
What is the best material for fountain pens?
Determining the best materials is all about working within your budget, according to Chris. He points out that you can spend $30 or $15,000 on a fountain pen. “Preferences for materials are usually based on aesthetics or how rare the material is. Functionally, there's not much difference. In fact, the cheapest pens are often the most durable.”
Splurging on a luxury fountain pen is usually about the artisanship that goes into making the pen, says Chris. That’s what has made premier fountain pen brands like Montblanc and Cross worth the splurge. But for durability, Chris recommends a metal barrel and steel nib—both of which are common.
While it’s hard to select one material as the best for fountain pens, Chris does point out that specialty pen materials and finishes, like a lacquered body, wil fetch higher prices. “Lacquered pens are among the most expensive. They're hand painted and require many layers to produce.” Other features that will add to the price of a fountain pen are gold or platinum plating, often seen on the body or cap of the pen.
How often should you clean a fountain pen?
You may think that cleaning a fountain pen will be a regular ritual, but the fact of the matter is that if you use the right fountain pen, you don't have to clean it often, according to Chris. He suggests cleaning it perhaps on a monthly basis and adds that he often only cleans his fountain pen when switching ink colors.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Erica Puisis has been following the latest trends in home decor and essentials, researching and testing products to find the best options for style, function, and value. For this article, Erica considered fountain pens from leading brands like Pilot, Lamy, Montblanc, Parker, Faber-Castell, and more. Options were compared based on factors like barrel and nib material, size, cap type, style, and ease of use—including refilling or replacing the ink cartridges. In addition, we noted whether some pens have a reputation for being finicky or smooth to write with and whether or not they dry out quickly.
For more insight on what to look for when choosing a fountain pen, Erica interviewed Chris Elfering, founder of Lochby, which supplies journals and paper to the fountain pen community. As an avid user of fountain pens, Chris spoke about the importance of choosing the right type of nib and what to know about the materials, maintenance, and durability of a fountain pen.